Interview with Anthony Pirog and Joe Lally | By Caleb R. Newton | Photo by Antonia Tricarico
Without uttering a single word, Washington, D.C.’s The Messthetics present a captivating musical adventure on their second album, Anthropocosmic Nest, released Sept. 6 via legendary D.C. label Dischord Records. The entirely instrumental group travel through wild rhythms that are sometimes jazzy and sometimes noisy, but these pieces consistently come together with a stunningly smooth power. Anthropocosmic Nest ultimately provides a gripping little glimpse of a new universe to be explored.
Guitarist Anthony Pirog feels the “main objective with this album was to not repeat ideas that we had already executed on our first record, [2018’s The Messthetics].”
“I am always looking for new sound,” he adds. “I don’t care what the genre or dynamic is. You can hear when the intent is pure, and that’s what I react to more than anything else. It can have words or no words; it doesn’t matter. I like when things don’t fall in line with familiar expectations and exist only to push the boundaries of sincere creativity.”
That’s the exact path he and his bandmates, former Fugazi members bassist Joe Lally and drummer Brendan Canty, take on their newest offering. The striking dynamics flowing through the album mean one almost can’t help but take in Anthropocosmic Nest as a wellspring of that “sincere creativity,” reaching for the stars from the perspective of its creators.
“We were recording from the first time we were writing,” Lally explains. “I think listening back to what we were doing helped us move ahead with it. It sounded like us but something new that we had not planned on making. We continued working out ideas and listening back. We were watching it unfold song by song.”
The songs’ sincerity reflects the musicians’ personal stakes in the process. “The story that I get from this recording is that the group is becoming more comfortable and open as a unit,” Pirog explains. “I am having the best time playing with Joe and Brendan. They are incredible musicians and people to be around. It feels like we can execute anything we want to in a pretty unique way, and it feels like there’s still a lot of ground to cover. I have a lot of ideas that I can’t wait to get to work on with them.”
The feeling is definitely mutual. The Messthetics’ artistry lays atop some solid personal cohesion. “I like to write music with other people [knowing] we are going to go out and play live,” Lally says. “I don’t enjoy the solitary composing of songs as much. We don’t get a lot of time when we’re home to work out new material. In fact, we have played live way more than we’ve been in the practice space. With Brendan and Anthony, I feel like there’s a lot of writing to be done. It seems we can do whatever we decide to reach for, so I always look forward to exploring music with them. We certainly have more ideas for the third record, and the second is just coming out.”
Lally explains that The Messthetics “began with Anthony’s ideas for making a solo record,” and from there, “we worked on those songs until we were happy with them and found that we had become a band. We looked at balancing mood and tempo across a side A and a side B of an LP. I think that is always going to be the determining factor for us understanding that an album is complete: Have we written something to hold one’s interest for 15 to 17 minutes at a time?”
The targets of that interest include the musicians as much as the listeners—it’s a communal dive into musical fascination—and the band developed a lot of the key ideas for Anthropocosmic Nest while out on the road. “We actually have never stopped writing,” Pirog explains. “We keep looking for things to develop the live set and have been playing some of the songs on our new record live for about a year. That time playing them live really helped us figure out how to let the music breathe and develop the appropriate arcs for each piece. We recorded our first record after only a handful of shows, but this record really had time to develop onstage.”
“It shows how much we enjoyed playing together that first time,” Lally notes of the transformation from backing Pirog up on his solo album to developing The Messthetics. “It turned out we were all hoping there was going to be more playing together somehow.”
While hoping to effectively balance their personal lives with the band, Pirog confirms that they’ve got a lot of touring coming up. However, he notes, “I’m just grateful for all the things we’ve been able to do so far and that people are excited to hear what we’re doing.”